Backpacking hacks by Hillary Lawson.

Backpacking hacks by Hillary Lawson.

November 16, 2021

Recently, we asked the Selk' community to share the details of how they pack for their adventures in the great outdoors. One of our favorite responses came from Hillary Lawson, a backpacking enthusiast and expert on all things meal prep and efficient gear packing. Check out photos of her setup, as well as some more details below!

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Please introduce yourself, and tell us about your background as a backpacker/camper/outdoor enthusiast.

My name is Hillary. I grew up in San Diego. My dad was really into the outdoors and used to go on backpacking trips with his friends. Growing up we did quite a few camping trips. I got back into it as an adult when I met my now husband. We met hiking out in Desolation Wilderness in Tahoe (no mutual friends/just two groups out hiking). One of our first backpacking trips together was Yosemite going through clouds rest to the valley and doing Half Dome along the way :).

Guy relaxing near the lake Selk'bag article


Walk us through the steps you take when prepping food and gear for your backpacking adventures. How do you choose what foods to bring? How do you store it in your packs?

We definitely learned from our first trip how not to pack. At first we just split everything. My husband is 185+ and needs way more calories than I do. He lost 3-5 pounds on that first trip. We first figure out how many days we are going and if the dogs are joining us (that requires an extra bear can), we have two American labs. We tend to backpack in black bear territory and so we use bear can, which can limit what you can pack/how you pack. Now we pack a breakfast for each of us each day. We pack snacks like beef jerky and trail mix (and try to be conscious of our space in our bear can). We pack a bar for lunch (with the calories for each person in mind). For dinner we split a high calorie dinner and always pack dessert! We love backpackers pantry creme brûlée and dark chocolate cheesecake. To save space, we tend to pack our first dinner (we eat a separate dinner the first night) in our “snack packs”. We pack snack packs clipped or slid into our bags for easy access of that days snacks, meals, and chewies/nuuns. To ensure my husband has additional calories we pack the salt/caffeine gummy chews and for electrolytes we love the nuun tablets.

Man having snacks in a camping trip journal entry Selkbag

How did you learn what the best foods to bring on the trail were/how to pack efficiently?

Packing is definitely trial and error. I’ve learned to cut some of the packages open to release the unnecessary air to have a tighter pack. Backpackers pantry and Heather’s choice are companies that are really good about packing/minimal air. I always pack one extra emergency meal for either time we didn’t account for or if we are extra hungry.

My husband the first time we went backpacking researches the most highly reviewed meals and bought one of each. We tried them all and found the companies we liked. One of our all time favorites is Pad Thai by Backpackers Pantry and for Breakfast, the breakfast skillet by mountain house.

How would you recommend a beginner backpacker get more familiar with the best ways to pack?

YouTube for sure or REI classes. Huge first to find the right pack for you. If the pack isn’t comfortable it will make that first trip pretty rough. And start with just an overnighter or a car camping trip with a pack to get the feel.

What’s the one food or nutrition item you NEVER leave for an adventure without?

Nuun tablets/block chews for sure for my husband. In terms of food, Pad Thai! It’s always our last night of our trip with a dessert :)

Pack snacks camping


What’s the best backpacking trip you’ve ever taken? Favorite location or trail?

If you can handle elevation (up and down) the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne in Yosemite is a must. Also in Yosemite, the views from Clouds Rest, sunrise and sunset, AMAZING!

How were you introduced to Selk’bag, and what is the first adventure you’ll take yours on?

I discovered Selk'bag on Instagram. It’s a great place for finding all different kinds of gear. And I’ll probably take it out in Yosemite or Desolation :)

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